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Upon arriving in Quanzhou, I was struck by how much the city has progressed since I last visited. The development the city has undergone during the past couple of years during China’s economic boom has been staggering. Modern infrastructure exists together with old buildings preserved since the Tang Dynasty, resulting in a juxtaposition between old and new. Quanzhou may not be a famous tourist destination, but it holds a major significance in China’s history. A coastal city on the south eastern Fujian province, this city was one of the busiest ports in the world during the Song Dynasty; Quanzhou used to be an avenue for trade with Arabs and Tamil merchants among others. It is also an epicenter for emigration since many residents left the city and moved to the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, accounting for the majority of the Chinese communities throughout the region. Licheng District The city’s history of…

Last year, I took part in a pilgrimage to Mount Putuo, one of China’s five major Buddhist religious mountains. Hauled along by an energetic tour guide who explained everything in either Mandarin or Fukien (ergo I didn’t really understand much), we snaked around the busy streets of Shanghai and paid our respects to a multitude of ancient Chinese temples in the nearby provinces. Now when you think of the word “pilgrimage,” you think of a quiet, spiritual experience through a billowing cloud of incense smoke, of monks draped in bright orange robes, and of fellow pilgrims offering a small prayer to the assembly of Buddhist gods before them. All of these things were there, but multiply the pilgrims exponentially. We literally had to make our way through a sea of humanity just to get to the different temples within Mount Putuo. The weather was hot and humid as we navigated…